Small breed dogs are among the most active companions you’ll ever have. In fact, some may give you more trouble than a hyperactive child. But in order to sustain that high level of energy and remain healthy, they need good food. This is where the best small breed dog food comes in.
This type of dog food is formulated for the very specific needs of small breed dogs, dogs which require a different calorie, protein, fiber, and carb intake than large breeds, pound per pound. Here’s what you need to know.
Best Small Breed Dog Food
Best Small Breed Dog Food Reviews
1. Nulo Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Kibble
Starting the list strong is this Nulo dry kibble, which features a grain-free recipe, little or no additives, and an improved formula that helps optimize digestion in small breed dogs.
You can find this dog food in 4.5lbs and 11lbs resealable bags that maintain freshness for several weeks. If you’re looking for a recipe that doesn’t use artificial coloring and flavoring, this may be the one for your dog. The addition of the BC30 probiotic is what helps maintain a healthy intestine flora and improve digestion.
The formula contains roughly 84% animal protein. It also features lentils, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes, which are known as low glycemic ingredients. This is most preferable for small breeds that can easily get hyperglycemic, or reach obesity very fast.
The recipe is considered low carb but high in protein. The kibble size is small, and the texture is not as hard as that of other dry kibble. This means that your dog should have no problem chewing the small pellets.
Weight management is one of the best properties of this Nulo dry kibble recipe for small breeds. The formula has been specifically designed to prevent obesity, diabetes, and other weight-related issues that are common in small dogs. It may also be a bit more forgiving if you have a tendency to overfeed your dog.
There are some meat by-products in this recipe, which aren’t necessarily bad, like turkey meal and lamb meal. That said, there are some owners who may not like the idea of using by-products. Still, the deboned salmon is the main ingredient, which isn’t bad at all.
2. Wellness Complete Health Dry Kibble
Whether you need a 4lb bag or a 12lb bag to feed all your dogs, the Wellness Complete Health is a formula you can take home anytime if you’re a small dog breed owner. It’s made from natural ingredients and has a texture that caters to small pets.
This recipe contains deboned turkey, chicken meal, salmon meal, oatmeal, brown rice, as well as a nice blend of fruits and vegetables for a highly nutritious meal. There are also some root extracts, and oils added, as well as a few vitamins to give the dog a solid energy boost.
The nutritional value of the Wellness Complete Health kibble caters to small breed adult dogs, more so than it does for seniors or puppies. That said, the high-quality ingredients that offer plenty of vitamins, antioxidants, protein, and that also help maintain a healthy coat, will have a positive impact at all ages.
But the reason why this kibble is best suited for adult dogs is its texture. The food may be a bit difficult to chew for very young and very old dogs that don’t have a lot of strength in their jaws or teeth.
The recipe should pass any stringent taste test due to its premium ingredients. This is not always easy to achieve when dealing with an additive- and flavoring-free recipe.
There’s a lot to like about this dry kibble, starting with the size of the pellets. But what is most impressive is perhaps the list of ingredients. Turkey and salmon are always highly appealing to dogs. This allows Wellness to add in many other veggies, fruits, and natural supplements that may not agree with dogs under other circumstances.
There have been some reports of inconsistent quality. Although overall great, the brand’s history of delivering erratic batches have been well-documented. And even though the inconsistencies have dropped over the years, it’s still a blemish on their record worth knowing about.
3. Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Dry Kibble
The Wellness Core formula is protein-rich and high in calories, which is what most small breed dogs need in order to stay active and healthy. It’s also slightly pricier, but you can find it in 4lbs or 12lbs resealable bags, which may make it more affordable to owners that don’t have more than one or two small dogs.
Grain-free dog food is not a new trend, at least not anymore. But while some may see it as just another extension of a pet owner’s eccentric food choices, a grain-free formula is actually good for many breeds. It’s less likely to cause an allergic reaction, and when proportioned correctly, it’s also much lower in carbs than traditional dog food.
The main ingredients in this formula are turkey and chicken. While chicken may be considered generic, turkey is always a winner with dogs regardless of age and breed. It’s also important to note that there are no meat by-products in this recipe.
The recipe also boasts high enough caloric values to maintain optimum energy levels in small dog breeds and to handle a fast metabolism. A mix of greens, sweet potatoes, fruits, and other veggies are also found in small amounts, as are some added vitamin supplements that complete the formula.
This is a dry kibble designed for sensitive small breeds, those prone to obesity and developing allergies. Due to the grain-free formula, this recipe is a strong contender for the best small breed dog food. Of course, all the other premium protein-rich ingredients help make its case too.
A lot of dog foods today try to fit in more salmon as it is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. These help maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat. Unfortunately, not everyone might agree with the Wellness Core formula as it relies mostly on salmon oil and ground flaxseed instead of salmon meal.
4. Instinct Raw Boost Dry Kibble
The Instinct Raw Boost dry kibble has been formulated for small breed and toy breed dogs that need more calories and less carbs in their diet. It’s also surprisingly cheap for a recipe that contains cage-free duck as its main ingredient.
There are a few variations to the instinct Raw Boost dry kibble. You can choose between beef, chicken, and duck as the main protein sources. All good choices, but one of them edges the others out, and that’s the duck.
By feeding your dog duck-flavored dry kibble, you’re giving him something truly special, a powerful and appealing taste and scent. It’s also worth noting that freeze-dried raw duck is used in this recipe, which is even better as it preserves the nutritional values a lot better than processed meat.
The recipe is also grain-free, so you’ll be able to feed it to dogs that are more prone to allergies. It contains some calcium and phosphorus supplements, which will aid in maintaining optimum teeth and bone health. Unlike many generic small breed kibble recipes, the Instinct Raw Boost recipe also lacks meat by-products, artificial coloring and flavoring, potatoes, soy, and other filler ingredients.
This combination of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried protein isn’t easy to come by. Instinct not only came up with a great idea but also maintains a high standard of quality when it comes to sourcing their ingredients, and the minimal processing aspect results in a healthier product for small breeds.
Although everything looks great on paper, there may be a small drawback to this dry kibble. The size of the freeze-dried protein pellets is a bit larger than what you would normally see in small breed dog food. This means that it may not be the best small breed dog food for puppies and seniors, especially if they have difficulty chewing.
5. Solid Gold Wee Bit with Probiotic Support
If you know anything about dogs, you should know by now that puppies often have issues with their digestion. This means that any wet or dry dog food that contains probiotics is usually a good choice as it can help them through their early development stages. This is exactly what Solid Gold does with its Wee Bit dry kibble.
Solid Gold always banked on the premise that less is more, and this is why you’ll never see an exhaustive list of ingredients on any of their labels. You won’t even find the traditional sweet potato, which is considered a good low-calorie filler.
This dry kibble is also great because it has very small kibble pieces, easy to gobble up by small breed dogs of all ages. The formula balances fibers, fat, and proteins really well and uses bison as well as fish as main protein sources.
Brown rice, barley, carrots, almond oil, and blueberries are also found among the ingredients. Note that this is a whole-grain formula, intended to offer probiotic support without relying on additives.
Bison is an exotic choice as the main protein source, but it’s tasty and appetizing to dogs. That said, it’s the all-purpose formula that takes center stage in the case of the Solid Gold Wee Bit kibble. The fact that it caters to dogs at all life stages is the main selling point.
Not all dogs respond equally well to grains. This means that you’ll have to research your breed a bit more and maybe even consult a vet before deciding to buy.
Best Small Breed Dog Food Buyer’s Guide
Small dog breeds are very particular in their dietary requirements. In some cases, they may be even vastly different than toy breeds, hence the need to research everything from ingredients, to nutritional values, to kibble piece sizes thoroughly, before buying something new.
There are too many brands that make small breed dog food to list here. The good news is that healthy eating trends in humans have translated to pet food too. Pet food manufacturers have started paying attention and now offer healthier options than ever before.
The difference in pricing between some brands is still clear, with Taste of the Wild, Wellness, Blue Buffalo, Purina, Royal Canin, and others leading the charge. But you’ll be surprised at just how much value you’re getting these days from picking something other than the cheapest dog food you can find.
Healthier food means a healthier dog. This means fewer trips to the vet, less money spent on consultations, treatments, and supplements that are meant to get your dog back on track to being active. Don’t be afraid to explore more brands. The ingredients of choice and the manufacturing process are more important than the brand name these days.
When it comes to small dog breeds, the nutritional values of dog food are slightly different than those of large breed dog food. That’s because smaller dogs tend to require a few more calories. Not in terms of total daily intake, but in terms of calories per pound.
Using small breed dog food that’s specially formulated for the needs of small dogs can prevent overfeeding while still maintaining the necessary caloric intake for your lively, active furry pal. You may not know this, but small breeds tend to have a faster metabolism. Hence one of the reasons why they require a higher caloric intake.
At this point, things get a bit difficult. In order to buy the best small breed dog food for your dog, you’ll need to do some research on the breed’s specific nutritional requirements. Some breeds may have very strict feeding guidelines, which means that you may not be able to get the same food that 90% of the dog owners buy on a regular basis.
Talking to a vet or spending a few hours online doing your own research will provide you with all the information you need to then apply this buyer’s guide to a bunch of products and separating the best from the rest.
Just like human food, dog food can contain a wide range of ingredients and different combinations, formulated for very specific breeds, age groups, and dietary requirements. Most recipes feature a combination of meat, vegetables, fruits, and seeds.
Other recipes may only contain meat as the main protein source. Some recipes are vegetarian and are ideal for dogs with a sensitive stomach, even though the majority of dogs will respond well to a meat-based diet.
You should also know that ingredients are usually listed in a very specific way. The main ingredient is always the one found in the largest quantity and also the one that provides the flavor. All other ingredients are almost always listed in order by weight.
Dry Dog Food vs. Wet
There are as many advantages as disadvantages to both types of dog food. Dry dog food tends to have a lower pound per pound price. It’s also easy to store, since many brands offer dry kibble in resealable bags, and it also has a longer shelf life once opened.
You should also know that the texture of dry kibble helps with dental hygiene. That said, the hard texture doesn’t agree with all dogs. Puppies and senior dogs may prefer wet food because it’s easier to chew. However, feeding wet food to a dog can get very messy, especially in the morning when they tend to eat really fast or after exercising.
When it comes to cheap dog food, both dry and wet dog foods can contain a lot of artificial preservatives and fillers. Now you may be asking yourself what makes wet dog food so special. Hydration is one of the reasons why some dog owners prefer it.
Dogs prone to dehydration benefit from a diet that includes more wet dog food. In terms of taste and scent, dogs prefer wet food too. That’s because the protein in wet food has been processed less than in dry kibble, which means it’s closer to its natural state.
With that in mind, it may be difficult to pick between the two. The good news is that most vets recommend diets that combine both types of food. Just make sure that the dry kibble won’t be too difficult to chew. There are softer textures available that cater to dogs with underdeveloped teeth or old dogs that have difficulty chewing.
Organic and Natural
Not all-natural dog food is necessarily organic. This is something you should always keep in mind when buying food for any kind of pet, as well as for yourself. For example, natural food usually means that the recipe doesn’t contain artificial fillers, coloring, preservatives, or flavoring. But this won’t always exclude some antibiotics or meat by-products.
Organic labeling on the other hand, also offers information on how the animals were raised and how plants were grown. This implies a finished product without growth hormones, antibiotics, and other additives.
This doesn’t mean that organic dog food will have a higher nutritional value. However, it does mean that the overall quality is higher. In fact, organic dog food may be the best suited for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Another big difference between organic and natural dog food is pricing. Since organic food takes longer to make, goes to slightly different processing, adheres to stricter quality control regulations, and uses more product to turn up the same amount of food, organic dog food is often more expensive pound per pound.
The clearest example of pricing differences can be found in organic human-grade dog food. But all things considered, there’s no study that has clearly determined that organic is absolutely the best way to go when it comes to dog food, regardless of breed and size. Most of the supplements used in dog food are essential for maintaining high nutritional values and a healthy lifestyle. Organic vs. Natural is more about owner’s choice than palpable quality.
Small Breed Dog Food FAQ’s
What’s the Best Way to Transition to a New Dog Food?
Depending on who you ask, transitioning to new dog food can often imply using very specific ratios of current food and new food mixed together. In all honesty, no ratio is perfect. There’s no generic rule to follow since all dogs are quite different.
The best way to make the transition is to feed your dog some current food mixed with new food. At first, use more of your dog’s current food and less of the new. Over a period of 7 to 10 days, gradually decrease the amount of current food until only new food remains in the bowl.
Transitioning to new food gradually is very important for two reasons. Firstly, it will allow your dog to get accustomed to the new taste and scent without feeling forced into them. Many dogs get picky, especially when you have to put them on a restrictive diet of less appealing dog food.
Secondly, dogs are known to sometimes have adverse reactions to newly introduced food when ingested in large quantities. This basically means that once a dog is accustomed to a certain diet, they may become sensitive to new ingredients.
How Long Does Dry Dog Food Stay Fresh?
Dry dog food can remain fresh for up to a year as long as the packaging hasn’t been broken. But once you’ve opened the bag, it’s recommended to consume the contents within six weeks. At least for the majority of dry kibble. Keep in mind that depending on the recipe and ingredients, the lifespan of the dry dog food may differ.
Now, even when stored in optimal conditions, dry dog food won’t stay fresh until it goes bad. In a couple of weeks, the food will lose its trademark freshness, and you’ll even start noticing that the smell is not as powerful anymore.
What’s the Best Way to Store Dry Dog Food?
If you get your dry dog food in a regular resealable bag, then you already have an optimum storage option at your disposal. If not, then you should find an airtight container big enough to hold the dry kibble.
That said, even if you’re using an airtight container, it doesn’t mean that the food will remain fresh for a long time if certain environmental conditions aren’t also met. Look at the label and check the recommended storing temperature. Try to meet it or at least come as close as you can.
No matter the specific recommendations, all dog food should be stored in a cool, dry place. Avoid using the fridge as it’s likely to be too cold and avoid leaving it on the kitchen counter where it may be exposed to too much heat from cooking or from direct sunlight. A pantry will be ideal if it’s already suitable for most of your own canned goods.
Also, you may notice that not all resealable bags preserve freshness very well after being opened multiple times per day. You might want to invest in a dedicated airtight container. Use glass jars with good lids, food containers, etc.
How to Read Dog Food Labels?
A lot of information is in the wording. For example, the main ingredient in dog food is often the one used in the product name. Other ingredients are also listed and should also be accompanied by percentages.
Another thing that people often get wrong is differentiating between organic and natural labeling. While natural pet food is often made without special flavoring, coloring, and preservatives, organic pet food takes things one step further.
An organic certification should ensure non-GMO ingredients, no synthetic hormones, no antibiotics, and only organically grown natural ingredients. The term organic doesn’t just indicate what ingredients were used but also how those ingredients were grown and processed, which is usually a lot cleaner and safer.
Ingredients are almost always listed in a specific order, by weight. If percentages aren’t clearly indicated, going from first to last will tell you roughly how much of each ingredient will be found in the food.
You may also want to check for terms indicating the appropriate life stage (i.e., All, adult, senior, puppy). Although most dog breeds have pretty much the same nutritional requirements all their lives, the values may change for different life stages.
Is Small Breed Dog Food More Expensive than Large Breed Dog Food?
It can be when the food has been formulated for small dog breeds with exigent dietary restrictions or health problems. But pound for pound, it shouldn’t be since a small dog will often eat less than a large dog.
The big difference is usually in the nutritional values of the food and not quantity.
As you can see, in this case, it’s difficult to pick a winner. Not because there aren’t clear differences between the five dog foods we reviewed, but because each of those differences clearly gives each food particular benefits and makes them suited for specific age groups and dietary restrictions.
In all honesty, you can’t go wrong with any of the above products, as long as you make sure that your dog is not allergic to the ingredients and if you pick a kibble size that’s easy to chew.